NEW YORK – An upcoming symposium organized by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Pontifical Academy for Life will explore the global landscape of palliative care, and discern ways to better promote it both in Canada and worldwide.

Entitled “Towards a Narrative of Hope,” the symposium will take place May 21-23 in Toronto, Canada.

It will bring together experts from theological, ethical, medical and pastoral backgrounds to share their perspectives and discuss how faith and culture play an essential role in providing “meaning, companionship, support, hope throughout the palliative care journey.”

Bishop William McGrattan of Calgary, Canada, said in a May 9 video message announcing the symposium that the common goal of the symposium is to educate, and create a culture of social responsibility in palliative care.

“This interfaith symposium is an occasion for us to identify the importance of palliative care, especially in promoting the dignity of the human person in times of illness and at the end of life,” said McGrattan, who is also the president of the CCCB. “It is also to promote an awareness for greater resources to be made available in our society for palliative care.”

The symposium includes both testimonials and experiences that will help the Church “highlight the beauty and necessity of palliative care, and demonstrate the hope we feel when life is lived fully to the end with care and with happiness,” McGrattan said. He added that out of those insights and discussions the focus will be determining concrete actions and planning for the future.

McGrattan said that the round table discussions will be on topics including palliative care policy and legislation, community engagement and support, and indigenous perspectives on indigenous perspectives on palliative care, further noting that these discussions “will help us identify challenges and offer practical solutions to ensure that palliative care is available universally for those at the end of life.”

A 2023 report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information, Access to Palliative Care in Canada, found that 58 percent of Canadians who died in 2021-2022 received palliative care – an increase from 52 percent who died in 2016-2017.

However, there remains a bigger challenge globally. World Health Organization research from 2022 found that more than 50 million people every year need palliative care globally, with only about 12 percent of those in need receiving it. The World Health Organization also predicts that the number of people who need palliative care every year will continue to rise due to aging populations and medical progress.

McGrattan said palliative care is important for a number of reasons, most importantly the spiritual support it provides.

“We believe in the sanctity and the dignity of all human life from conception to natural death, and palliative care, when made available, provides not only medical, physical and emotional support, but more importantly spiritual support,” McGrattan said. “It is the response that our society must have in the face of euthanasia and physician assisted suicide.”

“We ask you to keep us in your prayers as we begin this work at this symposium,” McGrattan added.

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